I have been working on this body of work for over a year. Each piece involves several steps and these steps have evolved with time. I started by taking or finding photos. One of the fascinating things for me with this project has been meeting the people whom I have photographed. I usually introduce myself, show them what I am doing, and take some photos. Sometimes they share something of themselves, sometimes they say very little. Almost all of the people I have asked were very curious and willing to let me take their photograph.
Using the photograph as reference, I then work on a contour/outline drawing. Since my very first drawing class, I have been fascinated by contour drawings. They seem related to haiku poetry. Good ones can say the most with limited lines or words. When I have gotten a drawing that I am pleased with, I use the Bernina sewing machine free motion stitch, and sew the drawing, sometimes adding texture, color or detail. Then I to go to the Genesee Book Arts Center and print the names of the figures using the Vandercook press. This involves looking through the antique wood type collection to find a font that works with my drawing. Then I go to the press where I set the type, proof the print and print the name on the stitched drawing.
The final step is deciding which threads go and which stay. The threads are very important to these pieces. I feel that they not only add line and motion but they seem to really create a metaphor for the people I have met and stitched. They are changing, growing, and vital.
I am usually the only one to see the back of the stitched drawing. To me they are fascinating, messy and very lively, while still capturing the feel of the figures. I have included an example for you to see.
People often ask me how long a figure has taken me to create. I never know how to answer this and mentioned it to an artist friend. She said that her response when asked that question is, “a lifetime.” Certainly that is true.
Stop by Main Street Arts to see Kate’s artwork in our current exhibition The Human Figure (runs through July 1). View her work online at www.blackbirdknits.com.
Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Nate Hodge.